With the introduction of roundabouts in the Missoula community, I have heard my fair share of negativity about this new-fandangled-dark-magic-traffic-wizardry. Most of the complaints seem to come from the older community (no offense boomers). “What the heck do we need roundabouts for? This isn’t Europe with their 'science' and free healthcare!”

Well, listen up, Sonny Jim, I can tell you changes like this come from years of detailed data study, and they aren’t just to free up traffic congestion and save you time. Roundabouts are constructed for your safety as well.  A simple search from the U.S Department of Transportation shows that roundabouts show a decline in crashes by thirty-five percent. So, let’s take a look at why this works.

First, a reduction of speed is key.

Slowing down around a curve is a natural driver instinct, because, you know, inertia and whatnot.  You’re instinctively going to slow your vehicle down to 15-20mph (hopefully) instead of maintaining the posted speed limit from around 25-30mph through a straight intersection.

Confusion is another key point I see.

You would think by now we all know how a four-way intersection works, but in my experience, and probably yours, we know that isn’t the case.  When four vehicles show up nearly at the same time at a four-way stop in Missoula, you might as well just start honking your horn and cursing out of frustration because someone is going to mess up the rotation like it’s backstage at a Cheech and Chong show.  A roundabout will free up that confusion, ultimately saving you time, frustration, and even gas in the long run, which I know you’ll be a fan of.

So, let’s talk about how exactly you should be using this monument to traffic science.

My best advice comes from none other than the Queen Bee herself, Beyonce Knowles.  In her own words of wisdom, “To The Left, To The Left,” you can make this super easy.  When approaching an intersection look to your left.  That’s where the oncoming traffic will be approaching, and where you need to yield.  Approach the intersection while slowing your speed, and look to your left. It’s really that simple. Is there a vehicle approaching? Then you should yield. Is it clear? Then approach the roundabout and signal if you will be turning slightly right. Do you need to make a left turn? Well just follow the circle to your destination. How about a U-turn? Yes, that's totally legal, whereas flipping a U-turn at a four-way stop in traffic is just going to cause mayhem and injury. Again, just follow the circle back around. This seems like complete common sense, but again, we’ve all been at a Missoula intersection, so I feel this article is necessary.

Let's recap. Roundabouts are a good thing.

You might be mad about the taxes for construction costs etc, but in the long run, you, the taxpayer, will be saving money in time, gas, and emergency services. When approaching a roundabout, slow down, look for oncoming traffic to your left, use your appropriate signal to your destination, and enjoy the rest of your commute. If you need more convincing, just watch this video.

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